Thanks to WCLK I learned of the Schemes and Dreams Foundation benefit concert on May 5. The featured performer for the evening was the Robert Glasper Experiment. At last I would finally get to see Glasper and the group in action after missing the opportunity to do so at Jazz Fest last year.
About the Benefit
Schemes and Dreams “is a 501(c)(3) based in Atlanta, Georgia that teaches our youth the value of nourishing their creative outlet while also creating a path to wellness and personal success. We provide programs for at-risk youth that avidly support them in formulating progressive schemes to follow and become their dreams.” The audience was able to enjoy the fruits of the foundation’s music program in the form of Jazz Future, a group of high school students.
Jazz Future played a short set featuring a few standards and closed with a lively take on Roy Hargrove’s Strasbourg/St. Denis. Following Jazz Future were the Be-Hip All Stars. A collective of musicians who are all artists on Be-Hip Records. Standout performances from the collective came from Akeem Marable on saxophone and Lester Walker on trumpet. The collective closed with a nice rendition of Donald Byrd’s Alter Ego.
The Robert Glasper Experiment entered the stage with Glasper thanking the audience for supporting Black Radio while making jokes about his belly, the Best R&B Album Grammy awarded to the group for the album, and how people think that he has all the artists that appeared on the album in his pocket. What we found out on this evening, was that it doesn’t matter who this group has in its company, it can play with anyone and play anything.
Set List (as I recall it)
All I Need (Radiohead)
Think Twice (Donald Byrd/Erykah Badu)
No Church in the Wild (Jay-Z, K West, F Ocean)
Cherish the Day (Sade)
I think I’m In Love (Unknown title and artist)
Ah Yeah (Glasper/Musiq/C Michele)
All Matter (Glasper/Bilal)
Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana)
Letter to Hermione (D Bowie/Glasper/Bilal)
Encore -Say Yes (Floetry)
This set list is an excellent representation of what the Robert Glasper Experiment is about, a cross genre musical exploration, with a jazz foundation. All the songs were at once recognizable, but were interpreted to be more funky, more mellow, more jazzy or more striking than the original. I loved every single minute of the performance but was particularly enthralled with their interpretations of No Church in the Wild, Cherish the Day and Smells Like Teen Spirit.
Drummer Chris Dave is THE Funky Drummer that James Brown sang about it. Bassist Derrick Hodge has some bass virtuoso chops and is newly signed to Blue Note Records. Saxophone, Flautist, Vocalist Casey Benjamin can do everything. I’m not much of a vocoder person but Benjamin is GIFTED, he makes it sound sweet and there was all manner of swooning going on during Ah Yeah and Say Yes. Then there’s Glasper.
Glasper sat alone on stage under a red light. His playing, I’d like to describe as waves of sound. Not crashing waves, but continuous, consistent ones. These waves are produced on what sounds like five pianos/keyboards at a time. I did not recognize the songs that he played, what I did recognize was his technical prowess and his touch — waves.
This Experiment is successful. The versatility, skill and musicianship of the band was on full display as evidenced by the set they played. The performance was seamless with some playful bits from Glasper interspersed. What I really enjoyed about this show was that the music was the star. As great as Glasper and his band mates are, the music they played moved the crowd and at the end of the day what else can you ask for.
If the Robert Glasper Experiment comes to your town, queue up for a ticket if you want to hear and experience something that will stretch your musical sensabilities.
For more information about the Robert Glasper Experiment and upcoming tour dates please visit the website.
(Note: Black Radio 2 is complete, some of the artists on the next release include Brandy, Faith Evans, Jill Scott and Dwele. Stay tuned.)